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Baseball: Opening Weekend Preview

It's been a long fall and winter, but the baseball season is here again! Cavaliers open the year in UNC Wilmington facing some tough competition.

The Cavaliers ended the season last year two wins shy of Omaha. They begin their trek back to the CWS this weekend in Wilmington.
The Cavaliers ended the season last year two wins shy of Omaha. They begin their trek back to the CWS this weekend in Wilmington.

The Cavaliers ended the year last year 50-12 and only two wins away from Omaha, but that's in the past. The road to Omaha and a national championship for UVa begins today in Wilmington where the boys will face off against Kentucky, UNC Wilmington, and VMI.

To say Kentucky ended the year roughly last year would be an understatement. The Wildcats started off the year 22-6 and ascended to the #7 ranking in the nation. The people of Lexington realized there might be another sport at the school, until the team came back down to earth. They finished the year 30-26, so you do the math on that terrible ending. Luckily for UVa, they'll be facing Kentucky's best arm. The two way player is Kentucky's best starter, but he is much better at the plate. Last year, he batted .280 with 13 Home Runs, 52 RBI, and was named First Team All-SEC DH. The other player to keep an eye on from Kentucky is Junior Austin Cousino. The outfielder is a preseason All-American even though he didn't have a great year last year (.249/6HR/27RBI), so he'll have a lot of expectations around him entering 2014. The Hoos are 1-0 against Kentucky all time since they won the only matchup 12-3, in 1906, Whit Mayberry's first year on the team.

The Hoos will take on a familiar foe on Saturday in VMI. The Keydets ended the year last season with a 30-25 record, and missed the NCAA tournament. They may have had a rough year last year, but they return 20 upperclassmen, so experience is clearly not a problem. Luckily, Coach O'Connor has a tremendous 8-2 record against the Keydets and hasn't lost to VMI since traveling to Lexington in 2010. Senior lefthander Connor Bach will take the mound for the Keydets coming off a rather impressive 2013. He started 13 games last year, and although he went 2-4, he had a 2.81 ERA and only walked 35 guys in 83 innings. Expect him to be around the plate so the Cavaliers should be very aggressive.

On Sunday, UVa will close out the weekend against host UNC-Wilmington. The two teams haven't played each other since 2005, but this could be the premier matchup of the weekend. Wilmington has won the CAA regular season title in back to back years and looks like the team to beat entering 2014.Since the game isn't til Sunday, the pitching will be important, but both teams will look to make the most noise at the plate. Wilmington is loaded in the middle of their lineup with Senior 3b Ryan LaGrange and Junior 1b Corey Dick. LaGrange batted an impressive .370 last year, and Dick was no slouch either at .294. Both will need to have monster games and have support from other guys in the Seahawks' lineup if they want to upset the Cavaliers.

This weekend should be a good test for the Hoos. They'll get to start the weekend against a strong team from the SEC and end the weekend against another team expected to win their conference and make the NCAA tournament. Luckily, the Cavaliers should have the better staff, offense, and defense in each of the three games. No reason to think UVa should come out of the weekend with anything worse than a 3-0 record.